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Personal perspective on alignment

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
Having worked on my own alignment for the past few seasons I feel that skiers can do some simple things to analze their alignment for themselves. These are definitely not new ideas but my motivation for posting this is the improvement in my skiing the past two years because of improved alignment.

First off, riding one ski straight down the fall line on a shallow slope is worthwhile. The ski should track straight with very little adjustment in posture. However, in order to use this test one has to be able to evaluate one's own posture (or have someone else do this for them). It can be pretty easy to incline or posture the body to accommodate poor alignment and produce a flat ski that tracks straight.

Similarly, one can traverse on single ski outside and inside edges across a slope to evaluate alignment. Here too, however, some judgement of posture is often required and some skiers may not be able to adequately perform such self assessment.

Finally, one footed turns (using the tip of the outside ski to help balance A LITTLE being allowed) is an assessment exercise that doesn't reguire self-assesment of posture. Until I got my alignment I had to put a lot of effort (with obvious contortion) to make turns both ways on a single ski. As I got my right side locked in all of a sudden one-footed skiing on the right foot became dramatically easier. When I finally got the left side better aligned (but not quite locked in like the right) I was finally able to make turns in both directions with my left, using only a moderate amount of increased effort as compared to the right. I can now make turns in both directions on both sides, even at moderately high speed.

The bottom line is that I found noticable improvement in my skiing correlating directly with my ability to make one-footed turns. If you are an intermediate skier or higher and can't make turns in both directions on a single ski (both right and left) then from my experience I can say that immediate improvements are waiting for you if you can get your boots better aligned.
post #2 of 18
Very good post. How exactly does a boot fitter fix your alignment? How can you do it yourself?

Are you making skidded turns or carved ones? I have been practising carved ones this year. I have had huge problems with inside ski carving but now I finally learned how to do it. I had the CM in the wrong place. I have to move hipps slightly more into the turn in order to have CM in the right spot compared to turning the other way. It is quite logic if you just stop to think about it for a second.
post #3 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Si

The bottom line is that I found noticable improvement in my skiing correlating directly with my ability to make one-footed turns. If you are an intermediate skier or higher and can't make turns in both directions on a single ski (both right and left) then from my experience I can say that immediate improvements are waiting for you if you can get your boots better aligned.
I am working on turns on the inside ski and believe I am slowly getting it. Presumably one has to accept that these turns will be difficult from the outset (IMO, the drill is designed to flush out ingrained technique problems) and defer blaming alignment until enough time has been spent adjusting body position etc.
post #4 of 18
Si, I will agree with much of what you said about alignment including the tasks that you have laid out for checking alignment on the slope. I would like to add one thing to your travese checks. You need to be on easy blue terrain and ski across the slope on one ski "in a straight line". Not a line that follows the natural arc of the ski. Pick a target across the slope and ski a straight line towards it on all four edges on one foot. The act of steering the ski in a straight line is where the problems show up.

I look at using one footed skiing as being a check on skiing improvement and alignment rather than an really good exercise to skiing improvement. Its kinda the chicken and the egg thing. One footed skiing requires you to use each foot to balance the hips over the feet. The key here is using the ankle to keep the hips over the feet for good balance. Keeping the hips up forward over the feet is the real key to efficient skiing.

The problem with heavily using one footed skiing as a means of improving hip position and balance is that turning on one foot requires the use of movements that originate in the upper body. I doubt that using one footed skiing heavily is what you were proposing anyway.

A great exercise instead of one footed skiing is the tracer turn where 90% of your weight is on one foot, same foot, all the time and the other foot is on the snow to trace the turn. This eliminates much of the need, as you suggested, for someone to watch what you are doing. Tracer turns also promote upper and lower body separation. Tracer turns are great as an exercise then go ahead and check your ability to one footed ski.
post #5 of 18
When I try the "one foot " drill, I first find myself in the back seat. Always". With that awareness, I can, and do "get forward, into the shins" for the practice, but that does not come natural. I have wondered if lifting the binding heel, the heel inside the boot, or some other alignment method would allow a more perfect balance. I have a very flixible ankle. Comments?


Perhaps it's just a general apprehension, my first reaction to any "uncomfortable" ski situation is to "get back" Oh well! human defense mechanism.

Regards

Cal
post #6 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cgrandy
When I try the "one foot " drill, I first find myself in the back seat. Always". With that awareness, I can, and do "get forward, into the shins" for the practice, but that does not come natural. I have wondered if lifting the binding heel, the heel inside the boot, or some other alignment method would allow a more perfect balance. I have a very flixible ankle. Comments?


Perhaps it's just a general apprehension, my first reaction to any "uncomfortable" ski situation is to "get back" Oh well! human defense mechanism.

Regards

Cal
The human defense mechanism, in this case, is the planter reflex. When we humans feel like we are falling, or pressure builds up under the ball of the foot, we plantar flex the ankle. With no fore and aft friction under the skis, we plantar flex straight into the toilet. These is no turning off the plantar reflex, you simply have to find ways of not to triggering it in the first place. Two ways are getting in the right equipment and dorsiflexing the ankle at the right time to take pressure off the ball of the foot.

Often times alignment involves exactly the opposite of what a person, including the alignment person, perceives to be logical. With noodle ankles, there is nothing to prevent you from sailing forward and triggering the plantar flex response. Noodle ankles requires the cuff to be more upright, the boots to be stiffer, the ramp and delta angles to be lowered or the toes to be raised. These are all things that allow you to take up ankle before you trigger the plantar reflex and sail into the toilet.
post #7 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cgrandy
When I try the "one foot " drill, I first find myself in the back seat. Always". With that awareness, I can, and do "get forward, into the shins" for the practice, but that does not come natural. I have wondered if lifting the binding heel, the heel inside the boot, or some other alignment method would allow a more perfect balance. I have a very flixible ankle. Comments?

Perhaps it's just a general apprehension, my first reaction to any "uncomfortable" ski situation is to "get back" Oh well! human defense mechanism.
Cal, I can only relate based on personal experience. When I first started tinkering with the "one foot" drill, my experience was the same as yours. I was in the midst of transitioning from the "old style" position on pencil skis where I had a lot of upper body counter and excessive inside tip lead, and where my default turn was a short swing. From that style, it was natural for the inside ski to be way out in front. So if I tried to weigh that inside ski and engage the little toe edge while in that position, I found myself way in the back seat. It took some trying to break out of that habit, and to learn to bring my mass forward onto that ski (or pull that inside ski back).

The tracer drill sounds like a good thing for you to practice. You will get it sooner than you think if you preservere. Then it takes a year or more before it becomes second nature.
post #8 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Si
I can say that immediate improvements are waiting for you if you can get your boots better aligned.
So my thought is this...

If I'm buying new boots, what aligment mechanisms should I look for in a boot?

And what if any boots have better rep for this?
post #9 of 18
Thread Starter 
SnoSkier, that's a good question. Here's my perspective but I'm just an ordinary skier.

Fit is first and foremost. If you can find more than one boot that fits well then there are some choices. I have read and heard a lot about "lateral" vs. "rotary" boots and have witnessed first hand the positive effects a change from "rotary" to "lateral" can make. Whether this can be generalized I can't say but there are those that claim this is a critical issue. Another consideration is an upright vs. more forward leaning geometry. Beyond that I would look for forward lean adjustment, lateral cuff cant adjustment and boot plate ramp angle adjustment. Note that just because there is an adjustment doesn't mean its range will serve your needs. However, having these to work with does allow experimentation and can give some indication of what combinations work (although I have found it to be far from easy to find the "optimal" adjustments since there can be interaction between these parameters).

While it sounds complex (and is to some extent), over time I have been able to find a combination of adjustments that really make a difference. In addition I have canted (externally) the bottoms of my boot in conjunctions with boot board ramp angle, forward lean, and lateral cuff canting adjustments. The key is to be able to feel and analyze what is not working (as well as it should) and try to make appropriate changes.

I know this sounds way too involved but over time I have gone from frustration to actual enjoyment of playing around with boot adjustments to see what it can do for me. The alternative is of course to find a professional you can trust and afford who is also adequately accessible. That, in itself, is a very difficult task I think.
post #10 of 18
Good exercises to elicit alignment imbalances Si.

I am of the belief that everyone can benefit from alignment adjustments. Even as little as 1/2 degree to the average skier is noticeable and beneficial. I also believe that those who insist they can and do adapt and ski fine without being properly aligned are missing the proverbial boat. Should you wait and try to change your technique before considering alignment adjustment?....why? After assessing literally thousands of skiers over the last fifteen years I can honestly say that over 95% of the skiers I have assessed have needed adjustments.

If you want to save money then experiment yourself with duct tape and shims for fore/aft adjustments but for goodness sake at least experiment to see how changes in lateral and fore/aft affect your skiing. many difficulties with ski technique are rooted in improperly aligned equipment not skier inabilities or inadequacies.

Ask yourself this? If boot alignment was not so important how come every elite skier has had it done? I quarantee you that if you put one strip of duct tape (approx. 1/4 degree) on one side of a world class level skier's ski and had them ski on firm snow they could tell you which side you put it on.

there are many threads on this subject and there is no doubt the benefits are there you just have to be willing to take the step and you will be forever thankful.
post #11 of 18
I personally agree on your obsevations on alignment and adjustments.
Interestingly, last spring at the Lutsen Spring Series, I was drinking wine and talking with some Austrian B team skiers and their coach. Every one of them said "we don't do anything about this, we adapt". (of course they were all graduates of Stams Acadamy where you have to pass an orthopedic exam to get in) Harald Harb said "that's right they don't" when I told him about it.
I've skied with the Athletic Skier type of alignment for many years and had considerable success with aligning others that way. However, lately I've been working on a different turn and stance and found that to avoid "boot out" or hooking the inside ski I had to go more neutral.
post #12 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by bud heishman
... I quarantee you that if you put one strip of duct tape (approx. 1/4 degree) on one side of a world class level skier's ski and had them ski on firm snow they could tell you which side you put it on....
Very interesting. You say that you apply the duct tape to the ski! Do you mean the binding of the ski. Between the boot and the binding?

WC boots dont have any adjustments for fixing lateral tilt. I think this is because they dont need it since they make them oversized and then level them to desired angle.

How does a boot fitter fix lateral alignment on a boot? He cant level anything off the bottom of the boot because that would result in assymetrical height of the base of boot that goes into the bindings. Sounds like a major operation with first gluing a big pease of plastic over the whole bottom of the boot, then level it to desired angle and then grind off some of the top of the base to have it fit into the bindings! Like on WC skiers boots.
post #13 of 18
First read my post above about the Austrian team.
For us mortals it's different. After the boot is ground to the proper angle lifter plates are screwed to the bottom. Next a special router bit/table arrangement is used to match the top where it interfaces with the binding.(before lifters we would build the top up by plastic welding or some type of body filler like they use to repair plastic bumpers)
WC technicians have to be careful not to exceed the inside the boot heel height of 45mm. Most WC racers have lowered their heels inside the boot for some time anyway. I remember a Nordica technician for Jeremy Nobis telling me to do this several years ago before lifters and height specs. For sure Bode had to do it after the boot mods he described last year.
post #14 of 18
So the Austrian racers chosen represent no alignment issues to begin with? You have to wonder about that logic. Since less than 5% of skiers are neutral (can stand flat on their skis) they end up picking racers from a very compromised number of racers.

Or is their logic whatever alignment compensations that can be made, their is no substitute for being anatomically perfect to begin with?

I have to make a commitment to spend the money next year and see what work I need. I believe its well worth it for any serious skier. There is no doubt in my mind that the benefit derived will far exceed any improvement in your skiing a new ski or boot will deliver.
post #15 of 18
Amen
post #16 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cgrandy
When I try the "one foot " drill, I first find myself in the back seat. Always". With that awareness, I can, and do "get forward, into the shins" for the practice, but that does not come natural. I have wondered if lifting the binding heel, the heel inside the boot, or some other alignment method would allow a more perfect balance. I have a very flixible ankle. Comments?


Perhaps it's just a general apprehension, my first reaction to any "uncomfortable" ski situation is to "get back" Oh well! human defense mechanism.

Regards

Cal
Hi Cal,

when doing the 'one foot drill' keep both skis under your feet and keep the tip of the lifted ski in the snow. This may help to prevent from the back seat.

CarvingFan
post #17 of 18
Tell me anyone,

Is there a valid "test" for correct fore and aft balance and alignment?

I've seen the "squat to greater than 90 degree knee bend with arms outstretched in front without falling over" as a boot shaft/ fwd lean test.

Can this same test be used as a guidline when clicked into the bindings? Checking for "neutral" pressure of the lower leg in the ski boot shaft.

Or are there other good ways to "evaluate" without the subjective nature of skiing?
I've seen a "teeter board" and even stood on one with my boot sole "center mark" on the pivot. I didn't get the point of that evaluation, which does not include the binding effects.
Carvingfan. Thanks for the suggestion. Keeping the "lifted foot" ski tip on the snow ALWAYS gives me just the right balance.( well maybe a bit of "reach back uphill to safety") I "get back" when first lifting the foot, then settle forward with the ski tip touching on snow (or nearly on) technique.

CalG
post #18 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by SLATZ
Interestingly, last spring at the Lutsen Spring Series, I was drinking wine and talking with some Austrian B team skiers and their coach. Every one of them said "we don't do anything about this, we adapt". (of course they were all graduates of Stams Acadamy where you have to pass an orthopedic exam to get in) Harald Harb said "that's right they don't" when I told him about it.
.
Slatz: Have you followed the drama about Hermann Maier's boots last winter.
What do you make of it ?
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